Yesterday, I was lucky enough to become one of the first people in New Zealand to play Bethesda’s upcoming steam-punk-assassin game, Dishonored; it was…interesting.
As soon as I took control of Corvo Atano, I felt hunted. That’s not a complaint; that’s exactly as it should be, seeing as the protagonist is a disgraced legendary bodyguard of the Empress who has been framed for her murder.
The demo mission available took place in the middle of the game, involving a plot to assassinate one of three sisters during a masquerade party. To complicate matters, you don’t know the name of the sister you are meant to kill, nor do you know what she looks like.
On the first play through, I did things relatively by the book: found an invitation to the party, sneaked through the house looking for clues, separated the correct sister from the group, then shot her in the face with a flaming crossbow bolt. Just another day, really.
The second play through is where things got interesting. Using one of the various powers available to me, I possessed a fish (yes, a fish) and swam through a gap in an enormous gate in order to gain access to the sister’s mansion.
I then learned that there is in fact a non-violent solution to every mission in the game – instead of killing the sister, it was possible to knock her unconscious and carry her into the cellar, where her lover would take her away forever. Kind of twisted, but I guess it’s better than being dead.
If non-violence doesn’t strike you as much fun, you can simply slaughter everything that moves using a variety of weapons including blades, crossbows and pistols that can all be upgraded and modified.
From what I saw, the city of Dunwall in which the game is set is dark, scary and utterly atmospheric – guards roam everywhere, and gigantic War of the Worlds-esque tripod Tall Boys lurk around every corner. Like I said, you feel hunted, like you could die around any corner, which makes it extremely satisfying when you don’t.
The game’s story is around 15 hours long, however the real strength of Dishonored will be in its choose-your-path gameplay which will greatly increase play-time. There are three main endings, affected by side-quests and your approach to each mission.
I was obviously left with some very good first impressions of Dishonored, just like every other Bethesda game I’ve played. But, let’s remember that the publisher is notorious for releasing buggy games, so let’s not count our chickens here; the game looks very good, but I’m not making any judgment calls on its quality until the full game is released.
Dishonored is out on October 11 for Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.